Betsy DeVos Announces Changes to Title IX

Title IX, our nation's legal touchstone for gender equality, asserts “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

On Thursday, September 7, 2017, Betsy DeVos announced at George Mason University, that she would repeal the Title IX rules made by President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden about investigating sexual assault on college campuses.


Photo via Reuters


The head of the Department of Education went on to say that, no one benefits from a "failed system” and later, “the era of rule by letter is over.”

However, the head of the Department of Education did give some acknowledgment and gratitude to the Obama Administration by saying it  “helped elevate this issue in American public life — they listened to survivors, who have brought this matter out of the back rooms of student life offices and into the light of day.”

DeVos is referring to the “Dear Colleague” Letter that was written by Obama's Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. The Obama-era letter outlined a set of comprehensive rules that reminded universities and Title IX administrators to follow the Title IX law.  DeVos went on to say that the current sexual assault reporting system “is a failing system” and is increasingly "elaborate and confusing.” She also suggested that the term sexual assault is “too broad” and too many of cases “involve student and faculty simply for speaking their minds or teaching their classes.” 

DeVos said to the crowd at George Mason University that the Obama-era system has “weaponized the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights to work with students and schools.” The Head of the Department of Education said that she would have a plan that is “more workable, effective and fair system that takes more explicitly takes into account the rights of the accused.”

In her speech, she announced that she and the Department of Education had formed two new approaches when it comes to reporting sexual assault.  The first approach she announced “will launch a transparent notice and comment process to incorporate the insights of all parties,” including feedback from the public and educational institutions. The second approach DeVos announced is that department will implement a regional reporting center model. This model would have universities and colleges correspond with local reporting centers. Then, the local reporting systems would partner with state attorney generals to report the assaults, in order to make sure that the system and process are run fairly.

“One rape is one too many, one assault is one too many, one aggressive act of harassment is one too many, one person denied due process is one too many,” DeVos told the crowd at George Mason University. “This conversation may be uncomfortable, but we must have it. It is our moral obligation to get it right.”

DeVos said that any new system that is put into effect must balance the rights of victims and the accused, saying, "the rights of all parties must be taken into account."

DeVos discussed numerous times in her speech that the justice system must consider “the rights of not only survivors of sexual assault, but also those who have been 'wrongly accused' of sexual misconduct.”

With such a statement from the administration, there were several protesters outside George Mason University. Several survivor advocacy groups including End Rape on Campus and Know Your IX, NARAL, and the Feminist Majority Foundation. 

“There are no two sides when it comes to rape. Period.” Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of feminist organization UltraViolet, said in a press statement after DeVos’ announcement. “With sexual assaults routinely going unreported, uninvestigated and unpunished, the scales are already heavily tipped in favor of rapists. The idea that we need to focus more on the rights of the accused would be laughable if it weren't so terrifying and outright dangerous.”

After Joe Biden heard of Betsy DeVos’ new changes to Title IX, he took his thoughts to his official Facebook page.

“Sexual assault is the ultimate abuse of power, and its pernicious presence in our schools is unacceptable,” he wrote. “Policies that do not treat this epidemic with the utmost seriousness are an insult to the lives it has damaged and the survivors who have worked so hard to make positive change.” Biden went on to add that one in five women will be a victim of sexual assault in college.

Read Joe Biden’s full post below.

You can read an entire transcript of DeVos' remarks here.

 If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, contact the SMU police at 214-768-3333 or contact the Title IX coordinator at 214-768-3601.